He UX discipline has been busy. In the last two decades, it has formalized the practices of information architecture, experience design, content strategy, and interaction design. Thanks to the insatiable drive of UX practitioners to improve and define the field, it will continue to grow, and persuasive design is the next practice it will supercharge and embrace, folding its techniques into interaction design.
A Framework for Changing Behavior
Persuasive design is the process of creating persuasive technology, or “technology that is designed to change attitudes or behaviors of the users through persuasion and social influence, but not through coercion.” – Wikipedia / BJ Fogg
In other words, it is the use of psychology in design to influence behavior.
There are a few main tenets of the discipline:
Behaviors can be classified based on whether they are positive or negative, and how long they will be sustained. (See the behavior grid)
person’s motivation and ability determine whether they will perform a behavior or not. (See this illustration)
Insights from psychology can be used to change someone’s motivation or ability, thus influencing the likelihood of a behavior.
Triggers are single design elements that change motivation or ability.
Triggers have a strong element of timing; they are most effective when presented when someone’s motivation or ability are already at peak levels.
From a practical perspective, persuasive design is strongly aligned with both business and user goals. It is a powerful way to influence the “desirable” part of the holy trinity of good design (useful, usable, desirable). It focuses on the context that behavior happens in, especially the motivation and ability required to prompt action.
Think of persuasive design as focused more strongly on affecting whether people do something, and interaction design dealing with how they accomplish it if they’ve decided to.
In the Wild
One need not look far to see examples of good persuasive design; they get talked about because they’re exciting. I’ve created a thread on Quora where examples of persuasive technology are continually being added. Here are some highlights:
Manicare Stop That is a nail polish with a bitter taste, helping people break the habit of biting their nails.
Vitamin R helps you stay on task by giving audio reminders that you’re working on something.
Ford’s fusion dashboard with eco leaves creates a feedback loop on your driving, encouraging more eco-friendly driving.
ReadyForZero is giving away stickers that go on your credit card, reminding you not to spend.
The Facebook Like feature is lightweight, in-context exchange of social capital that creates motivation, value, and engagement for multiple people with a single click.
A Steady Trend
Before looking forward, let’s take a quick look back to see how this new discipline fits into a simplified history of user experience:
Human-computer interaction is about paying attention to people and their relationship with computing.
Information architecture is about making things findable.
Interaction design is about making things usable.
Content strategy is about making things meaningful.
Experience design is about making things seamless.
Persuasive design is about making things influential.
The trend goes towards deeper meanings and bigger impacts.
As the design discipline gets better at the basics of understanding and enabling behavior, it moves towards creating meaningful impacts by influencing behavior.